PACT Awards over $730,000 in Grants Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00

Sen. Alamilla with PACT Officials and Grant RecipientsThe Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) is a statutory board responsible to encourage and promote the protection, conservation and enhancement of Belize’s natural and cultural resources. On Monday, October 7th, PACT awarded grants to four organizations and two researchers to fund conservation projects. The grants amount to a total of 6,769.

The largest grant was awarded to the Association of Protected Areas Management Organization (APAMO). APAMO received $384,071 to strengthen the institutional capacities of community based organizations dedicated to conservation. Jose Perez, Executive Director of APAMO, accepted the cheque on behalf of the organization. He says the members of most community based organizations are volunteers who take care of the protected area because they see it as part of their home. Perez says APAMO’s responsibility is to help develop their capacity to effectively manage their protected area. This particular project will focus on six community based organizations for which APAMO will assist with financial management, strategic planning and marketing up to September of 2014.

The Belize Fisheries Department received $199,500 for the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Management Zone Expansion Project. The marine reserve is located along southern Ambergris Caye and was established in 1987 covering an area of ten square kilometers. Over the years it has been expanded and today the Fisheries Department patrols and monitors four zones totaling 55 square kilometers of marine reserve. With the grant from PACT, the reserve will be expanded to 370 square kilometers and 8 additional management zones will be added. The Department will use the funds to increase its operational staff.

Two smaller grants were awarded to organizations from Sarteneja. The Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) received $60,000 and the Sarteneja Fishermen Association received $35,608. Joel Verde of SACD says the money will be used to strengthen the collaboration among conservation organizations in the northern Belize marine system. Verde says they will also partner with organizations in Mexico to better protect the marine reserves of the area. The Sarteneja Fishermen Association will use the funds to promote lionfish as an alternative fishing specie. They will provide training for local fishermen on safe fishing, handling and harvesting of the specie. The lionfish is the number one threat to marine life in Belize but a new campaign has promoted the specie as a cash crop. Local fishermen associations will be assisted to access markets for the specie- and overfishing is surely not a concern.

Alex Anderson and Wilber Martinez received $20,000 each for research. Anderson is conducting research on “Baseline Population Abundance Estimate and Development of a Monitoring Plan for Queen Conch at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve”. Martinez is conducting a research on the “Ecology and Conservation of the Baird’s Tapir in Central Belize”. Martinez says the Tapir is our national animal and we know little about its movement in our country. He will use the funds to mount GPS collars on Tapirs to track their movement in order to learn more about their habitat and population size.

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Senator Lisel Alamilla, praised the partnership between PACT and the management organizations saying that it has served the country well. She added; however, that reform is still needed to more effectively protect the natural resources of Belize. She cites the remarks of international experts who have reviewed the conservation methods of the country and concluded that “Belize really has an aggregation of sites and not a conservation system”. Alamilla says there needs to be more collaboration in the management of protected areas in order to make the most resources available. The Ministry will also be looking at ways to raise funds locally in order to invest more in protecting the natural reserves of the country.